June 11, 2023 Essay: Living Bread
Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Jesus saying, “I am the living bread come down from heaven,” is a tremendous claim. He is the word God utters to reveal himself to us.
He is God’s word—God’s promise—to be with us on the journey of life, wherever the doubts, the sins, the sufferings and joys lead, even through the valley of the shadow of death.
Jesus the food for the journey: in his person, God nourishes us. In his living, dying, and rising God shows us the path to joyous life in holy communion with him, one another, with all who have gone before and all who are to come.
Behind all talk about Eucharistic doctrine is the real presence God wants to have in our lives. Albert Edward Day:
…God is present in reality no matter what unreality our practices or ponderings imply. He is forever trying to establish communication; forever aware of the wrong directions we are taking and wishing to warn us; forever offering solutions to the problems that baffle us; forever standing at the door of our loneliness…clinging to our indifference in the hope that someday our needs, or at least our tragedies will waken us to respond to his advances. The Real Presence is just that, real and life-transforming.
“The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Eating flesh, drinking blood is an idiom meaning to ruthlessly destroy. Bread becomes the flesh of Jesus broken and poured out on the Cross.
“If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” We are to feed on his flesh—graphic language for a profound reality.
The Eucharist is the Risen Body of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. The enfleshment—of God continues. I am, we are, ever becoming, his body in the world.
I feed on him, I digest him, and he remains in me, in every molecule of me, and I in him. The eternal life of God is in me. My bodily life has a value, a purpose, a destiny beyond this world.
Christ remains in you. I must bear your burdens and accept with affection your quirks and faults. I must respect and defend the dignity and rights of each and all of us. As Ignatius of Antioch wrote before the year 110:
Those who hold erroneous opinions hold aloof from Eucharist and prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior, Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father in his loving-kindness raised from the dead…They concern themselves neither with the works of charity, nor widows, nor orphans, nor the distressed, nor those in prison or out of it, nor the hungry or thirsty.
Jesus longs for the transubstantiation of each disciple.
Receiving his Flesh and Blood, we affirm that, with Jesus, we are willing to be broken by disappointment, betrayal, and suffering in order not to oppress others, in order to share the burdens of others who struggle and are afraid. There is such joy in this.
This is the Living Bread come down from heaven.
— Fr. James Casciotti, S.J., Provincial Assistant for Pastoral Ministries, Jesuits USA East